Australia is about as far away as you can get. I like that. Andre Benjamin
My mother was the sort of parent who gave books as birthday presents. I was the sort of child who anticipated the luxury of much new reading material come birthdays or Christmas. I was perfectly happy to forgo new clothes, fancy toys or make~up kits for a wealth of good books. Consequentially I have a very large children's library to this day.
When I was about 10 I recieved the first Billabong book I ever read, Bill of Billabong, & began my love affair with the inhabitants of Billabong Station.. Unless you are Australian you will never have heard of these ~ & even then maybe not. They are older books dating back to the early 1900s but what I love about them, & what made them so popular, is the humour. Billabong Adventurers has the funniest pre~nuptial scene I have ever read & when I am in need of a good laugh I will drag the book out just to read that one scene & laugh till I howl.
For the time they were written in they are remarkably modern in outlook. The central character is Norah Linton, the beloved daughter of David Linton & sister to Jim. Her home is the cattle station in Victoria, Billabong, which gives the series its name. Finding himself widowed & knowing nothing of raising girls David Linton raises Norah as he would a son. Don't let this put you off. Norah is definitely a feminine character with many womanly accomplishments. In the early books she is tutored at home & learns her household skills from the family housekeeper while still participating in the daily running of a large cattle station.
Mary Grant Bruce writes well but her most enviable skill is her ability to infuse the ordinary with the extraordinary. She writes about the daily round of everyday chores & activities in such a way that they seem fresh & exciting. As a parent I admire the attitude with with everything is approached. Work is seen as good & to be enjoyed as much as possible. Friendship is valued. Duty is to be done lovingly. Everyone is to be helped as best you can.
As an Australian much that is unique about these books is taken for granted. I've travelled through the countryside so lovingly described. I understand the heat & the flies & the attraction of cool water & gum shade on a scorching hot day. There is a subtlety to these books that was often missing in children's books of the era & there is surprisingly little moralising. However nothing does justic to an author like quoting their own words so here's a little snippett from my favourite passage:
He paddled hard for a few moments, standing up in the boat. Then he uttered an exclamation.
"Seems to me my feet are getting damp. Golly, the boat is making water hand over fist. That bump must have started a plank. Bale, Norah, as hard as you can, or we'll be drowned on our wedding day!"
Norah sought hurridly for a bailing tin, & finding none, did the best she could with her hat, which being of a porous nature, made little headway against the inrush of water. The boat filled rapidly, & presently sank gracefully beneath them. The water closed over their astonished heads. Billabong Adventurers ~ Mary Grant Bruce.
Some titles are now a little hard to get but many are still available though I would not recommend the very first as it is episodic & a little stilted & originally written for magazine installments but they are funny & wholesome & extremely readable.